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Islam in Igboland:

Lessons in History

Author:
Rev. Fr. C. Aham Nnorom, Ph.D.

THE DANGER WITHIN: ISLAM IN IGBOLAND

Delivered at the International Conference on Igbo Studies A tribute to Simon Ottenberg, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, April 3-6, 2003

 

 

“Ọkwa lewere ọkụkọ nga ana abọ ya na achị.

Ọkụkọ sị ya, achịla.

Na aka eji abọ ya ka aga eji bọọ gi.” ~~  Igbo Proverb

 

 “The bush fowl saw the chicken being carved up and laughed.

The chicken told the bush fowl to stop laughing. For the same hands now carving up the chicken would be used to carve up the bush fowl” ~~  Igbo Proverb Interpreted

 

ABSTRACT: Many scholars, including those of Igbo extraction, have been concerned with the resurgence of militant Islam in the Sudan, Indonesia, Palestine, and in the northern states of Nigeria. An increase of academic interest in Islamism and terrorism is noticeable since the bombings of US embassies in Nairobi and Dares Salaam, of the US warship Cole, and most importantly, the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the ongoing war against terrorism. In Nigeria, in particular, while most scholarly and media attention has been focused on Christian-Muslim dialogue, Sharia and the violence it incited, very little is known about the danger lurking within Igboland: the phenomenal increase in the number of Igbo Moslems and mosques, an incredible development unknown before the Nigeria-Biafra War. This paper examines a bitter historical irony: That while Ndigbo are being religiously, ethnically and economically cleansed from the predominantly Islamic states of Nigeria, Igbo Imams, Sheiks, Alahajis, Alhajas and mosques, once few and exotic, are now a common sight in one of the most homogeneous Christian regions in Africa. It argues that the quiet, secretive but aggressive Islamization and Arabization of AlaIgbo is a clear and present danger to Igbo interests and survival; and suggests countermeasures that would protect Igbo interests and assure the nation’s survival.  

 

CAVEAT ON METHODOLOGY

 

        This study is limited and preliminary for four reasons. First, given the secrecy and almost cult- like nature of Islamic operations in AlaIgbo, it was virtually impossible to get any of the Muslim leaders - Igbo and non-Igbo - to release relevant information on the size of their membership, their religious, educational, charitable, and proselytizing activities; their sources of funding is also a closely guarded secret. Moreover, virtually all the Igbo Muslim leaders who could have provided relevant information were on pilgrimage to Mecca during the research; and they refused to be interviewed on their return. Second, it was equally extremely difficult to glean information even from Igbo residents of areas with Muslim institutions: Most of them – even including bishops, priests/pastors and laity- knew very little about the activities of their Muslim neighbors. In fact it was shocking to learn that many Igbo were unaware that an Igbo Moslem, Alhaji Yahaya Ndu, was running for the Nigerian presidency under the African Renaissance Party. Third, a more in-depth and substantive work will require extra time, resources, and more ingenious investigative capabilities. Fourth, this study was, unfortunately, hindered by tragedy: As this writer’s main researcher was returning from one of his field interviews in Afikpo, he was waylaid by a band of armed robbers, severely beaten, robbed, and left for dead on the road; the teenage and heavily- armed bandits drove away in his car.

      

Islam in Igboland is divided into seven parts: Caveat on Methodology, Introduction, Lessons from History, Islam in Nigeria, Islam in Igboland, Islamic Weltanschauung, and Epilogue. While it has as its primary focus the danger posed by the increasing numbers of Igbo Muslim converts, it will, nonetheless, deal, tangentially, with at least a group of Moslem strangers in our midst- the Hausas of Rivers State; the “Meguards,” who are scattered all over AlaIgbo, keeping watch over the homes of many absentee Igbo landlords, the “nnama” traders who have developed important business links with Ndigbo, powerful Muslim oil tycoons plying their trade from Port Harcourt, and other foreign Moslems, will be excluded .

 

INTRODUCTION

 

       “Ndigbo nọ na nsegbu.” 1  (The Igbo are in trouble.) That is how a foremost Igbo historian and scholar describes the present state of the Igbo nation. But that, however, is an understatement. We are not merely in trouble, Ndigbo are in a crisis, undoubtedly, the most serious socio-economic, political, cultural, and religious crisis in our history. It is not within the purview of this paper to enumerate the tragedies that have befallen our people prior to the Nigeria-Biafra War and since the end of that long forgotten holocaust: of the gory massacres documented by the Onyiuke Tribunal.  2 and A Call for Reparation and Restitution submitted by Ohaneze to the Oputa Panel,  3  of mass starvation and the Nigerian war of genocide that consumed about 2 million Biafran lives, of the cyclic and systematic killings by Muslim militants symbolized by the gruesome beheading of Gideon Akaluka in 1994, of the shootings and assassinations of hundreds of MASSOB activists by the Nigerian police, especially the recent Onuimo Massacre, in which about 300 members were either killed or injured and 200 arrested, including their leader, Uwazuruike; of the general insecurity in Igboland, especially the phenomenal increase of police- induced armed robbery in churches and rectories, and, finally,  of the diabolical attempt by various Nigerian regimes to reduce Ndigbo  to a caucus of petty traders cursed with impassable roads, a people mired in social, economic and political immobility.

 

        All the same, it is, however, in the cultural and religious realms that we face the greatest danger to our survival as a people. Culturally, the Igbo are an endangered species, a gloomy and frightening prospect that is a product of the increasing criminal neglect of the Igbo language and heritage by the Igbo themselves. But even by far more troubling is the state of our double religious heritage: Traditional Igbo Religion (TIR- also known as Odinani) and Christianity. The former is gradually becoming extinct, while the latter is yet to be fully born. Thus we are an “usuistic people,” (like ụsụ, the bat- neither “an air nor a land animal”) – confused, divided and caught between the primal and irresistible force of our ancestral faith and the young and brash attractions and promises of a novel and universal religion. In fact the present state of Christianity in Igboland is not unlike the situation in North Africa before the Islamic conquest: Booming and prosperous in terms of numbers and physical infrastructures but foreign and weak in terms of spiritual compatibility with Igbo culture. This is because Christianity, the overwhelmingly predominant religion of Ndigbo, is yet to become Igbo culture. And until religion becomes culture, it lacks the spiritual, philosophical and ideological powers that facilitate its ability to discharge its social and historic functions, especially in times of crisis. Three of these key functions are the mobilization and defense of an oppressed people as well as the authority to issue and enforce sanctions.  Other than its otherworldly role to “save souls,” an authentic religion has also a secular obligation: to promote and protect group interests, especially when other traditional institutions are incapable of doing so. Indeed the root of contemporary Igbo problem is the inability of either Traditional Igbo Religion or Christianity to perform this critical function.

 

 “Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon can not hear the falconer;

Thing fall apart, the center can not hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.” 4

 

Scholars of the religious conflict in Nigeria, while generally acknowledging the religious “divide” between Nigerian Christians and Muslims have, nonetheless, been overly concerned with two issues: religious dialogue and Sharia. Kukah is apologetic about Islamic violence in Nigeria, attributing it to the repressive nature of military dictatorships that deny Muslims access to other channels of organized opposition; 5 he sees dialogue as the only solution to the problem. Soyinka, a proponent of religious tolerance, sees the introduction of Sharia as an attempt by Northern Nigerian Muslims to “create a religious-political albatross by creating a religious pretext for their dashed hopes.”  6  Ubaka, a priest and Islamic scholar, outlines the negative implications of the recent introduction of Sharia in Nigeria for non-Christians.  7  While for Kenny,  8  Akintunde,  9  Onaiyekan  10  and others, the intensification of dialogue is also the only solution to Muslim attacks on Nigerian Christians.

 

Unfortunately, like their Western contemporaries, none of the proponents of dialogue admits the failure of Christian-Muslim dialogue in Nigeria in spite of decades of active inter religious engagements at meetings and conferences on state, federal and international levels. In fact none of them has proposed coherent Christian countermeasures to deal with a resurgent, rampaging and violent Islam that has massacred thousands of people, destroyed property worth billions of dollars, and vowed to turn Nigeria into an Islamic Republic. With the exception of the robust resistance of some Northern Nigerian Christians and Igbo co-religionists to Sharia and Islamic violence since the return of “democracy”, most Nigerian Churches, often boasting significant numbers of  Islamic scholars, have woefully failed in their role as the “good shepherds”. In fact they have manifested a troubling lack of will to prevent rampaging packs of Islamist “wolves” from destroying incredible numbers of churches and ecclesiastical institutions as well as slaughtering and scattering thousands of their flock. Under Obasanjo, “the born-again” Christian, most of the Church leaders have manifested incredible naivete hoping that unlike previous Muslim- dominated Nigeria regimes, they would be provided with adequate security under a “Christian” president. Worse still,  Igbo Church leaders, whose people constitute the overwhelming majority of the victims of Islamic violence, have been unable to devise an action plan to protect the people. This paper will analyze the danger posed by militant Islam in Igboland and suggest countermeasures that would assure Igbo survival.     

 

RELIGION AND SOCIETY

 

Generally, while the otherworldly concerns of religion have been noted,  11  theological studies and the social sciences have over the years amassed a vast quantity of information and speculation about the influence of religious power in society.  12  Thus, as arguably the “most powerful and pervasive force on earth,”  13  and potentially the primary source of crisis and stability in the new century, religion’s place in the world is understandably controversial. Consequently, scholars have posited both positive and negative opinions as to the proper role of religion in society.  Some of its basic and progressive functions include: To “to unite its believers with a supreme center of loyalties,” to “interpret political loyalty as a religious obligation, as a sanctuary from political conflict, as a reconciler of political conflict,”  13  and as the last line of defense for a culture. Religion can also become evil,  14  and act “as a sanction for political conflict, as a source of political conflict,”  15  and the engine of genocide and terrorism. There are also those who would exclude religion from the public square, arguing that as a private affair, it should play no overtly public role in a secular society.  16  Some scholars even once claimed that religion was dead.

 

But rumors about religion’s demise and the purported triumph of scientism, materialism, technology and the promise of endless progress, have been over exaggerated.  Scholars have identified the 1970’s as the beginning of the “La Revanche de Dieu” (the Revenge of God), a period marking the end of the global trend toward secularization, the “return to the sacred,” and a robust and universal reassertion of religion in public affairs.  17  This religio redivivus  (religion- come-back- to-life) has had a global impact on Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, leading in 1977 to the victory of Menachem Begin, the pro religious Likud Party candidate, over the secularist Israeli Labor Party; In 1978, Carol Wojtyla became Pope John Paul, and began the movement to bring to an end the doctrinal and liturgical confusion created by the aggiornamento (updating) of Vatican 11; Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Teheran in February 1979, and established the Islamic Republic of Iran.  18

 

In an important article entitled “ The Next Christianity, ” Philip Jenkins makes a prediction: “ The  twenty-first century will almost certainly be regarded by future historians as a century in which religion replaced ideology as the prime animating and destructive force in human affairs, guiding attitudes to political liberty and obligation, concepts of nationhood, and, of course, conflicts and wars. ”  19 According to him, the centers of gravest state weakness are often the “regions in which political loyalties are secondary to religious beliefs, either Muslim or Christian, and these are the terms in which people define their identities.” (A 2000 Arizona State University Study by Prof. Kevin Ellsworth found that to be the case in Nigeria)  Jenkins opines that across Africa, one of the critical issues to be faced by governments will be “ whether Christian minorities can exist indefinitely under an Islamic regime. ”  20.  He warns that in Nigeria, “ likely population growth will be accompanied by intensified rivalry, struggle for converts, and competition to enforce moral codes by secular law.” 21.  Jenkins also reveals a fascinating geopolitical and religious trend: Over the last century, Christianity’s center of gravity has been shifting Southward, to Africa, Asia, and Latin America, a prospect that could lead to a “New Christendom” in the South. He cites US intelligence, which predicts that in the coming decades, “governments will have less and less control over flows of information, technology, diseases, migrants, arms, financial transactions, whether legal or illegal across their borders…The very concept of belonging to a particular state will probably erode.”  22 Religious trends have the potential to reshape political assumptions in a way not seen since the rise of modern nationalism.  23.  In his classic work, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, Huntington buttresses Jenkins’ position, by identifying Nigeria and the Sudan as the two countries in Africa lying on the violent “fault line” between Christian and Islamic civilizations.  24.  Igboland lies at the epicenter of the “fault line clash” of civilizations between Christianity and Islam in Africa.

 

ISLAM AND CHRISTIANITY: LESSONS IN HISTORY

 

A political sage once said: “Without history, there is no context. Without context, we will not know what to do.”  25.  Indeed, it is impossible to understand the danger posed by Islam to Igbo survival without placing in sitz im leben the phenomenal speed and modus operandi with which Mohammed conquered the warring Bedouin tribes, consolidated Islam in the Arabian peninsula, and carried the young religion beyond Arabia.

 

       To its contemporaries, the historical context of the pre- Islamic world could not have looked more inauspicious for the young but ambitious Arab nationalist religion. When Islam burst out from the dry and relatively isolated fast nesses of the Arabian peninsula in the 7th century, it had to confront the Greco-Roman Byzantine (395-1453) and Sassanid Persian (224-651) empires, two of the most civilized peoples on earth.  26. But in spite of the remoteness and mystery with which it was associated, Arabia was not totally cut off from the influence of its more powerful neighbors. For not only were there regular commercial links between them, Mohammed had to deal with the Christian and Jewish communities that were widespread in the region.  27 For example, Mecca, the city that would become Islam’s holiest place, boasted of an Archbishopric, while Medina had a synagogue.  28 But after initial signs of tolerance, the Muslims either massacred or expelled members of both religions.  29.  This action, the first sign of a new and intolerant faith, was taken on the basis of a statement credited to Mohammed before his death: “Two religions should not co-exist in the Arabian peninsula. ”  30

 

        Within the Persian Empire, where Zoroastrianism was the official creed, religious pluralism also reigned, and Nestorian Christian communities flourished from Iraq, Bahrain, Oman, Afghanistan and even into China. And while the Greco-Roman Byzantine rulers were less tolerant of religious diversity, and saw the Arab Christians- Copts, Monophysites and Nestorians as heretics and schismatics, and persecuted them- Byzantium, nonetheless, promoted Judaeo- Christian values that were sources of unity and integration within the Eastern Roman Christian empire. Today these Churches have either been wiped out or are on the verge of extinction. The gradual but inexorable destruction of Eastern Christianity by Islam is an object lesson in Muslim attitude toward Christians, especially in Igboland.

 

CHRISTIANITY AND ISLAM IN THE MIDDLE EAST

 

Prior to the rise of Islam, Christianity was the dominant religion of the Middle East. And the clash between the two religions started from the very beginning. Two letters from Islamic leaders to the two older faiths point to this ancient clash of civilizations. One of the first recorded official contacts between Christianity and Islam was the letter sent by Mohammed to Heraclius, ruler of the Byzantine Empire, on May 11, 628 AD, four years before his death.  31  “ I call you to Allah, ” he commanded, “ and I invite you and your people to Allah, Mighty, Sublime. I have done my duty of conveying the message and counsel, so accept my advice. ” 32 Another letter sent by Khalid, the Moslem leader, to the reigning Persian Satrap before attacking Iraq and Persia, is also indicative of Islamic intentions: “ Accept the faith and you are safe; else pay tribute, you and your people; which if you refuse you shall have yourself to blame. A people is already on you, loving death even as you love life. ” 33 However, the brazen, authoritative and undiplomatic language of these letters may be understood only in the light of overall Islamic military and political strategy, which softened and facilitated the takeover of non- Muslim lands. Prior to the first military conflict between the new religion and Byzantine Empire, Islam held the advantage in four areas: First, Muslim leaders had a strategic vision (they planned ahead);  they were able to win over to their side by infiltration some Arab Christian groups, in whose hands lay the defense of the borders of Byzantium. These local Christians- Nestorians, Jacobites, and even Melkites- whom the Muslims had earlier infiltrated, were to join the Moslem invaders in order to participate in the sacking of the towns and populations among whom they had lived.  34  Second, Islam had a psychological advantage because many Christians saw them as liberators from Graeco- Roman rule. The naivete of the Christians, which often preceded Islamic conquest of their nations, was expressed in a letter sent by a Jordanian Christian tribe to the Moslem army as it approached their land: “ O Muslims, we prefer you to the Byzantines, though they are not of our faith, because you keep better faith with us and are more merciful to us and refrain from doing us injustice and your rule over us is better than theirs, for they have robbed us of our goods and our homes”  35 Third, both the Byzantine and Persian Empires were totally ignorant of the new religion and underestimated the danger it posed to their very existence. In fact they misinterpreted the initial Islamic invasion as a part of the regular razzias during which pagan Arabian tribes would invade their border regions, rob and steal for awhile, and, then, return to their harsh homeland. Unknown to them, Islam had transformed the razzias into jihad and a potent weapon of a permanent Arab hegemony.  Fourth, Islam was a more nationalist, militant and fanatical religion, promising its warriors incredible earthly booty in victory and a paradise of material and sensual delights in death. According to Philip Hitti, “the Islam that first conquered was not the religion but the state, not Muhammadism but Arabism. The Arabians burst upon an unsuspecting world as a nationalist theocracy seeking a fuller life.”  36

 

Consequently, in the first major battle between Christianity and Islam, the Arabs. With only 40,000 ill equipped and poorly disciplined soldiers, they defeated a 100, 000 –man Byzantine army, “the most efficient and highly organized army that the West could provide,”  37 at Yarmuk in 634 AD. And even though monks and Bishops moved among the troops warning of the danger defeat posed to the faith,  it was evident that “many in the Imperial Army did not in the least care what happened to the Church, for the clergy had lost the confidence of the laity and were extremely unpopular.”  38 Moreover, the conscripted Christian army was “no match for the wild and fanatical fervor of the Muslims, who saw, if they were killed, a paradise of sensual delights and if they survived, boundless spoils, captive girls, well-watered lands, houses and wealth.”  39  And most importantly, Christian Churches exhibited obvious weaknesses in three key areas: (1) Doctrinal conflicts among the various denominations led to internal divisions which was exploited by Islam (2) Confusion and weakness on moral, social and political teachings, the fulcrum of religious life, led to apathy and decline within the Churches (3) The replacement of early Christian attributes that facilitated its peaceful conquest of the Roman empire- inflexible zeal, austere morals, miraculous powers, and the doctrine of a future life - by a folk Christianity that encouraged countervailing values, promoted internal decay in society. 41 And within a few years, the whole of the Middle East was in Moslem hands, thanks to all these contributing factors. According to Gibbon, “while the (Byzantine) state was exhausted by the Persian war, and the Church was distracted by the Nestorian and Monophysite sects, Mohammed, with the sword in one hand and the Koran in the other, erected his throne on the ruins of Christianity and Rome.” 40

 

Contrary to some of their expectations, the Islamic invasion and takeover of the Middle East was a disaster for its overwhelmingly Christian majority, as is evident from the reactions of its leaders. Delivering a sermon on Christmas Day 634,  Sophronius, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, wept because he was prevented from making the traditional Christmas pilgrimage to Bethlehem, “not detained by tangible bonds, but chained and nailed by fear of the Saracens,” whose “savage, barbarous and bloody sword” kept them locked up in Jerusalem.  41. In an Epiphany Day sermon in 636, he bemoaned “the destruction of churches and monasteries, the sacked towns, the fields laid waste, the villages burned down by nomads who were overrunning the country”  42  In a letter to Sergius, the Patriarch of Constantinople in the same year, he condemned the ravages done by the Arabs.  43  Michael, the Syrian (1166-1199), the Jacobite Patriach of Antioch, used earlier sources to describe the impact of the Islamic conquests: “From the beginning of the empire of the Arabs, they went out to take prisoners, to pillage, steal, ambush, invade and destroy whole regions during all of Muhammad’s life”  44

 

In spite of their incredible resilience, the condition of Middle Eastern Christians has worsened over the centuries, especially with the contemporary resurgence of Islamism. For example, if present trends continue in the Holy Land, there will be few if any Christians living in Bethlehem, the birth place of Christ, in another decade.  45 “ The same is true of Nazareth, where Jesus grew up, and even of Jerusalem, where nearly 600 historic churches still stand. ”  46 Both Bethlehem and Nazareth, once overwhelmingly Christian cities, are now predominantly Moslem. “Today three-fourths of all Bethlehem Christians live abroad, and more Jerusalem Christians live in Sydney, Australia than in the place of their birth.” Christians now comprise only 2.5 percent of Jerusalem; they include a few born in the Old City when Christians constituted the majority. In 1950, Christians in the Palestinian territories made up 15 percent of the Arab population. Today they have been reduced to just 2 percent. According to the 1997 The Times of London report, “life in (Palestine Authority ruled) Bethlehem has become insufferable for many members of the dwindling Christian minorities. Increasing Muslim-Christian tensions have left some Christians reluctant to celebrate Christmas in the town at the heart of Christ’s birth.”  47

    

Outside the Holy Land, the fate of Christianity is also grim. In the last ten years, fully half of all Iraqi Christians have clandestinely emigrated. As a result of the Lebanese civil war (1975-1995), during which 600,000 emigrated and 100,000 were killed, Lebanese Maronite Christians, once a solid majority in the country, have been reduced to less than a million of the population. Saudi Arabia has no native Christians, and forbids its 4 million Christian guest workers to practice their faith.  “It is illegal to import, print or own Christian or non-Muslim religious materials, and Christians have been jailed and deported” for breaking the law. In the last two decades, militant Islam has facilitated the shriveling of once thriving and vibrant Christian communities, and led to the exodus of 2 million Christians. In 50 years, it is estimated that Christianity may well be extinct in the Middle East.  48 Those who still insist that Islam is “a religion of  peace” have either not read an impartial history of the religion, or are yet to meet a Christian from a predominantly Muslim country.

 

CHRISTIANITY AND ISLAM IN EGYPT

 

In 639 AD, barely two decades since its founding, Islamic forces invaded Egypt and conquered it in 640 AD. Prior to that, the land of the Pharaohs had traditional occupied a special place in Christian history. About three hundred years before Christ, it was conquered by Alexander the Great (332), and underwent intensive Greek colonization, called Hellenization; Greek language and culture was dominant among the urban population. Alexandria surpassed Athens as a center of Greek life and culture. And even though Julius Caesar conquered Egypt in 30 B.C., Alexandria extended the influence of its superior Greek philosophical schools even to Rome. With the advent of Christianity, Alexandria became the head of Eastern Christianity, played an ecclesiastical leadership role second only to Rome in the early Church, and  once had one hundred Bishops. While its first Bishop was St. Mark , the Evangelist (62 AD), the Egyptian Church also produced such Church Fathers like Clement, Origen, Athanatius and St. Anthony, the Father of Christian monasticism. “So it is understandable that Christian theology in the proper sense of the word first started in Alexandria.”

 

Like their co- religionists in the Middle East, the Islamic conquest of Christian Egypt was facilitated by internal weaknesses: the civil war among the Byzantines, Coptic hatred of Greek Christians who persecuted them as heretics, doctrinal and organizational disunity among Christians, and the power of Islamic propaganda to which some Copts may have fallen victim as is evident in Mohammed’ directive to his followers: “The Copts of Egypt are uncles and in-laws, and they will support you against your enemy and help your religion.”  49 Yet, it will be facile to explain the Islamic victory in the context of Coptic misperception of Muslims as liberators from Roman yoke, as some scholars have done. “But this misinterpretation overlooks the basic fact that Egypt considered herself part and parcel of the Roman Empire which in turn was identified with the universal Church. The Copts were far from thinking of themselves as an “independent African church.” In their own eyes they were the protagonists of orthodoxy within the universal Church and at that time negotiations for reconciliation were still going on.” According to an eyewitness to the invasion, “some fled, some went over to the invaders and some resisted stubbornly.” The Greeks and the Hellenized Christians were among the first to flee. 

 

       Thus the history of Coptic-Muslim relations in Egypt is not unlike that of Christians in the conquered lands of Syria, Iraq and the Holy Land. Initially, the Copts thought they shared mutual interests with the Moslems; they were initially treated as full citizens and some even rose to positions of great responsibility under Islamic rule. Their religious beliefs and traditions were respected with some of their feasts declared as state holidays.

 

Yet, periods of harassment and attempts to suppress Egyptian Christianity predominated and often met with resistance. Under the discriminating legislation, known as the Covenant of Omar, the Christians were reduced to the state of dhimmitude-  “protected” tax- paying second class citizens, without socio-economic, political and military opportunities. Banned from the army and important government positions, large numbers converted to Islam in order to take advantage of the benefits of full citizenship. Others, however, resisted, engaging in a series of revolts between 725 AD and 831 AD. 50 Under one of the Fatimide rulers, the Copts were forced to wear special clothing in order to distinguish them from the Moslems; monasteries were looted, church land confiscated, and the ringing of church bells banned. But this was the most shameful and outrageous punishment meted to them: Copts were ordered to wear around their necks wooden crosses weighing five pounds and sixty centimeters long.  51  According to the Chronicle of John, Bishop of the Egyptian island of Nikiou between 693 AD and 700 AD, an interdenominational war that was raging among Christians when the Arabs invaded Egypt in December 639, enabled them to commit unspeakable atrocities against the people: “But let us say no more, for it is impossible to describe the horrors the Muslims committed when they occupied the Island of Nikiou as well as the terrible scenes which took place in Cesarea in Palestine.” 52 Egyptian Christians had discovered only too late that the Muslims were conquerors and not liberators after all. Never in their wildest dreams did they realize that by their initial collusion, they had unwittingly condemned not only their Christian country but also the thriving churches of North Africa- and indeed large regions of Africa- to centuries of Moslem conquest and domination.

 

Today the Copts, the descendants of one of the most ancient Christian communities, have been reduced to only 10 percent of the Egyptian population. They are still an oppressed people, barred from full participating in the socio-economic, political, and military life of the country. In fact during a visit to Egypt a few years ago, this writer came face to face with the plight of its Christian population. At the dilapidated St Sargius Coptic Church outside Cairo - which according to ancient tradition is “ the oldest Christian Church in the world,” (since as a synagogue it had harbored the infant Jesus, Mary and Joseph after their flight from Herod), a Coptic priest pulled this writer aside and whispered into his ears: “ Look at this ancient church. It is on the verge of collapse because the Egyptian Government has refused us permission to fix it. When you get back to America, tell the Christians that the Moslems are destroying us.” Yet, despite centuries of oppression, “ the survival and strength of Christianity in Egypt, after thirteen centuries of Arab domination, is unique in the story of the ancient Christian churches of north Africa.”  53 

 

THE DESTRUCTION OF NORTH AFRICAN CHRISTIANITY

 

       In the Maghreb (Tunisia (Carthage), Morocco and Algeria), Latin Christianity also blossomed, producing St. Victor, Pope and martyr, Saints Felicitas and Perpetua (d. 203 AD), and the famous Theological School of Carthage (modern Tunis) under Tertullian and St. Cyprian (248-258 AD). It was at this renowned institution that the Catholic Church enunciated the doctrine of “extra ecclesiam nulla salus.” (Outside the Church there is no salvation). However, the Christian Church of North Africa reached its zenith with St. Augustine (354-430), the greatest of the Church Fathers, the first thinker to attempt a systematic philosophy of society, a political thinker of great consequence, inventor of subjective literature, and a man with a profound influence on Christian thought and practice.

 

But divided, fragmented, and weakened by doctrinal differences, especially the Donatist heresy, North African Christianity was in trouble. After repeated attacks that led to the devastation and depopulation of the region, Carthage fell to the Moslems in 697 AD. Of its 300 Bishops only 30 stayed behind. Unlike the Good Shepherd who gave his life to his flock, the others abandoned the faithful and fled to Europe. The lack of an ordained native clergy as well as the inability of the church to develop an  indigenous liturgy through inculturation, facilitated the demise of North African Christianity. Some Christian Berber groups fled across the Sahara. One of their chiefs and his people settled near Niamey in present day Niger Republic. After some resistance, the North African Berbers were won over by the Arabs and converted to Islam. One of the new converts, a chief named Tarik, became governor of Mauretania. In 711, he led a Berber army, crossed the Sea and conquered a greater part of Spain, and took Islam to Europe. Gibraltar – the Rock of Tarik,- is named after him. With the exception of small numbers of Christian migrants to the Maghreb, Christianity is almost extinct in the region.

 

THE RESISTANCE AND DESTRUCTION OF BLACK AFRICAN CHRISTIAN KINGDOMS

 

Together with Egypt in the north, it is understandable that Black African lands to the South, were among the first areas of the world to embrace Christianity. First, their proximity to the Holy Land, the birth place of the new religion, made that possible. Second, the historical and symbiotic relationship between pre- Christian Egypt and Black Africa is well documented: Before and after numerous  invasions by European and Asian peoples, the ancient Egyptians had always seen the South as the land of their ancestors, a place of refuge, re- grouping, and resistance in times of crisis. At the time of Isaiah, the prophet, the Black Nubian (Nobotae) King Piankhi, had conquered and ruled over Egypt as a mighty Pharaoh; the details of his campaign are preserved in the Egyptian museum in Cairo. Piankhi had also sent a military expedition to Palestine (Is 18:1, 20:3, 37:9), a land that was once part of the great Egyptian empire that extended beyond the “Fertile Crescent.” Isaiah called these Nubians “a people, tall and bronzed (smooth skinned);” and the historian, Herodotus, praised them as “tallest and most beautiful of men.” At the time of Christ, queens called Kandakes, ruled the kingdom, and the Eunuch baptized by Philip, the Apostle, was surely a top Nubian official (Act 8:27).

 

Nubia, the biblical Kush (“ the South ”), which the Septuagint (the Greek version of the Hebrew Old Testament translated in Alexandria in the 3rd century B.C.) renders as “Ethiopia,” is not the same region as the present Ethiopian state, but encompasses modern Sudan and the valley of the nile from the Second Cataract to the Sixth. The country was divided into three kingdoms: Nobatia (north), Alodia (south), and Makuria (central). While the origins of Nubian Christianity is shrouded in mystery, the excavations at Faras indicate its presence already in the 5th century even before the official conversion of the 540’s, when the Empress Theodora sent an Alexandrian Copt, Julian, to the Nobatia. Makuria was evangelized by Orthodox missionaries sent by Emperor Justinian the Great; while Alodia was converted in the 580’s by missionaries sent from Nobatia. Nubian monks were known to have lived in Egypt in the 4th century; and many Coptic (Egyptian) Christians had been forced to flee to Nubia in the 4th century during the Arian heresy. According to Origen (c.240 AD), one of the Fathers of the Church, Christianity was even preached in Black Africa from its very beginning. After Makuria united the kingdoms, Nubia recognized the Coptic Patriarch in Alexandria.

 

It is ironical that the Nubian Church blossomed between 700 AD and 1250 AD after the fall of Egyptian and North African Christianity. But this irony is understandable: Nubian Christians, alerted and troubled by the sudden collapse of the faith as well as the fate of their co-religionists in the north, must have realized the importance of strengthening Christianity as a bulwark against Islam. The period of expansion began during the reign of King Mercurios (697-710), who was called the “New Constantine.” The military and political power of the kingdom is evident in its ability to act as protector of its sister church in Egypt. For example, in 743, after Omar, the Muslim  governor of Egypt, launched a holy war against the Christians- destroying churches, converting convents into mosques, and imprisoning the Patriarch, the head of the African churches- Cyriacus (King of Kings) of Makuria led a 100,000- man army into Egypt and forced the release of the Patriarch;  54 and he only left with the promise that Christians would no longer be persecuted.

 

Modern excavations have also revealed the incredible religious and material achievements of this ancient Black African kingdom. They include a cathedral connected to the royal palace, books in Old Nubian, Coptic, and Greek; one contains a list of kings, another, of 27 Bishops called metropolitans. There are about 169 exquisite paintings in the Byzantine style. “The paintings depict many dark-skinned bishops  and rulers, such as the Metropolitan Petros (967-999).” The presence of Nubian liturgical books and Black bishops from the 10th century indicate a high degree of inculturation and indigenization. Nubia was also known for its many churches: “There were several in every large town, one in just about every small village…and churches scattered over large urban centers, along those of greater splendor in the “Cathedral Cities.”  55

   

But flush from its victory over Egyptian and Middle Eastern Christians, a large Islamic army led by Abdallah, the new Arab governor of Egypt, swept southward and attacked  Nubia in 643 AD. Led by King Kalydosos and adopting their traditional strategy of “hasty and confused retreat,” the “frightened” Africans allowed the invaders to advance deeply into Black territory until “100,000…Blacks turned in flanking onslaughts that almost completely wiped out the entire Arab army.” Even Arab historians of the period admit that “it was the most devastating defeat ever suffered by an Arab army.” 56 A second Muslim attack in 651, while partially successful in destroying Dongola, the Makurian capital and its famous cathedral, however, failed to break the spirit of the Africans who, under the great King Kalydosos, adopted a “no surrender” strategy that led to the Treaty of Baqt (652 AD), an agreement of equals that had serious implications for both Arabs and  Africans: (1) The Arabs were so psychologically damaged by two defeats at the hands of Blacks that they sued for peace that lasted for 600 years.  57  (2) Treaty provisions included the promotion of increased trade, Islamic missionary work, and the building of a huge mosque in Dongola, and facilitated the expansion of slavery and the peaceful conquest of the Sudan, objectives the Muslims were unable to achieve through war. And finally, in 1316 AD, Islam achieved its long sought ambition: Dongola was destroyed and the last King of the Black African Christian kingdoms of the South was put to flight.  58  

 

Today, the long running struggle of Southern Sudanese Christians and Traditional African Religionists against the Islamist government in Khartoum is a continuation of the historic battle waged by Black Africans against slavery, Islamization and Arabization in Nubia. Over 2 million Southern Sudanese have perished in the last two decades in this “quiet holocaust.” Today, Muslims are still selling thousands of Southern Sudanese children into slavery. Ethnic cleansing is common, especially in villages near the oil fields in southern Sudan. And despite numerous peace conferences, Arab governments in the North have consistently rejected a fundamental Southern demand: the right to self determination, or even the decentralization of power.

 

ISLAMIZATION OFNIGERIA

 

After the destruction of the North African and Black Christian kingdoms, Islam swept further south, firmly establishing itself in Kano in the second half of the 15th century and spreading to other parts of the north. . However, it was not until 1802, when the major Islamization of Northern Nigeria, then part of the Sudan, began with the jihad of the Fulani leader Uthman dan Fodio. Under the pretext of reform, he conquered the Hausa states, which he claimed were practicing a corrupt form of Islam, installed the Sokoto Caliphate, and consolidated the religion in the presently core Moslem parts of the north. Fulani emirs were also forced on the conquered lands, a situation that prevails even to this day. Borno, which has reportedly an ancient Christian presence, had fallen to Islam as early as the 8th century. However, attempts to impose Islam on other national groups – the Tivs, Idomas, Biroms etc.- met with stiff resistance.

 

After the British defeat of the Caliphate in the 19th century, a pro- Islamic policy that would have negative implications for the Nigerian polity, was instituted. First, it undermined the historic struggle for freedom waged by non-Muslim minorities in the north: For example, while the new colonial power restricted Christian missionaries to “pagan” areas and barred them from the predominantly Moslems sections of the north, Islamic missionaries were allowed to make new converts, often by force, among the Traditional African Religionists, who had historically waged a largely successful war against Islamic penetration and occupation of their land. Eventually, it was mostly from these non-Moslem ethnic groups that Christian missionaries were able to make new converts. Second, British policy impeded the first attempt made by Bishop Adjai Crowther’s CMS “Sudan” party, which woefully failed to convince the conquered Hausa kingdoms to throw off the Fulani yoke; Third the more successful Evangelical groups who came after Crowther, were also restricted to the minorities: the Sudan Interior Mission (SIM) in 1893, and the Sudan United Mission (SUM) in 1906. Their mission was intended to save the “pagans” before they came under Islamic rule. Catholics and other Protestant missionaries were also active in the north during that period – but also equally restricted. However, today, millions of Northern Nigerian Christians belong to ECWA and TEKAN, which grew out of the SIM and SUM respectively, and to other Catholic and Protestant denominations. For example, the Catholic Archdiocese of Kaduna is the third largest Catholic metropolitan see in Nigeria. It is sad and unfortunate, however, that as a result of political calculations by both the British and subsequent Nigeria governments, Northern Nigerian Christians have historically been undercounted, marginalized, and persecuted by their Moslem neighbors. Moreover, these Christians have also been politically impaired by the traditionally passive brand of Christianity preached by the missionaries, especially in the face of a militant, aggressive and assertive Moslem neighbors. Otherwise how would one explain the fact that, for example, Adamawa State, which is about 60% Christian, has historically been dominated by the Moslem minority?  59 Or that Bauchi State, which is 46% Christian, is considered by many as a Moslem state?

 

With the Islamic victories in the north, the jihad warriors almost fulfilled their oath to dip the Koran into the waters of the Atlantic Ocean by carrying the Halfmoon deep into Yoruba South,  and incorporating into their empire, the Caliphate of Sokoto, and the northern part of the Yoruba kingdom centered on Old Oyo. The Muslims were also able to penetrate other parts of the former Western Nigeria by intermarriage and trade. And although Nigerian population figures are unreliable, some estimates place the Moslems at 33% in 1960 and about 50% presently.

 

The extent and depth of Islamic penetration of the Yoruba nation is evident from developments since the introduction of a more violent brand of sharia in Zamfara state in 2000 and its rapid enactment by 12 other northern states. During a courtesy visit to the Niger state governor, Abdulkadir Kure, Dr. Ibrahim Datti Ahmad, president of the Supreme Council of Sharia in Nigeria, said that “the council’s immediate target is to work for the implementation of Sharia legal system in Kwara and Oyo states.  60 It was, therefore, not surprising that Oyo has embraced sharia within four months. Under the aegis of the Supreme Council for Sharia in Nigeria (SCSN), Lagos inaugurated an Independent Sharia Panel on December 11, 2002;  61 there are calls to extend the barbaric practice to other states in Oduduwaland. Christian-Muslim tensions have also risen in the region as fanatical Yoruba Moslems attempt to force their religion down the throat of non-Moslems.

        

SHARIA

 

       Indeed the path to subsequent efforts to introduce Sharia and turn Nigeria into an Islamic state may be traced to two key policies adopted by the British government after bringing its various nations under colonial control in 1900 and imposing amalgamation in 1914. The first was geopolitical, the second, legal: British officials divided the country in such a manner that the northern region was larger than the rest of the country. And in order to permanently ensure Muslim dominance of their of their geographical contrivance, they ignored the country’s natural riparian divide, and five years before independence, moved the border further south, adding to the north sections of the Middle Belt that were formerly part of the Eastern region. The British also created two separate laws for the country: In 1900, a truly secular legal system based on customary laws, the English common law, and statutory provisions, was imposed on the South, a form of Sharia embodying Islamic personal law was part of the penal code in the North. Unlike Atartuk, the reformist Moslem leader, who outlawed Sharia in the overwhelmingly Islamic country, and replaced it with an authentically secular constitution, the British preserved sections of the Islamic code as part of Nigerian jurisprudence. While this favoritism toward Muslims may have had a racist tinge (the British also ceded power to the “civilized” northern Sudanese “Arab” Muslims and failed to protect the “primitive” Black southern Christians and Traditional Religionists), this was done as “a concession to stem the tide of resistance to the British colonial rule…”  62 Indeed the use of violence or threats of violence, which has historically been a potent weapon used by Nigerian Muslims to achieve and/ or protect their interests, has traditionally given them an undue advantage over their more peaceful, pacifist, and divided Christian competitors, who were often taught by the missionaries that the morally correct response to violence was to “turn the other cheek.” It is doubtful that many of them understand the moral obligation of legitimate self defense in a crisis, of which Christ himself approved when he told his disciples: “When I sent you forth without a money bag or a sack or sandals, were you in need of anything? No, nothing, they replied…But now one who has a money bag should take it, and likewise a sack, and ONE WHO DOES NOT HAVE A SWORD SHOULD SELL HIS CLOAK AND BUY ONE.”  (Luke 22:35-36).

 

MURTALA TO OBASANJO

 

Emboldened by, and respectful of, the obvious privileges historically given to Islam, their fanaticism, and willingness to employ violence to achieve their objectives, various Nigerian military and civilian regimes have consistently promoted the efforts by the Moslem north to Islamize and Arabize the rest of the country. But of all of them, however, the Murtala, Obasanjo (1&2), and Babangida dictatorships, were the greatest facilitators of the sharia project in Nigeria. Contrary to his populist image as a Nigerian “nationalist,” General Murtala Mohammed was in fact a diehard Islamist. In an article entitled “Nigeria: Neither an Islamic nor a Christian Country,”  63 Professor Omo Omoruyi revealed that it was the death of the Nigerian dictator that temporarily halted his plan “to make Nigeria an Islamic Republic in the fashion of Libya.” Even then, he wrote, “Murtala’s death did not kill the plan, as his followers in the military and the civilian wings of the geo-ethno-military-clique, that is the northern leadership were aware of the plan and pushed it to the Constitution Drafting Committee.” of 1977/78. On replacing the assassinated “Butcher of Asaba,” General Matthew Olusegun Obasanjo was bent on carrying out his boss’ Islamic plan. For he “did not see anything wrong with the provision as propounded by the pro-sharia zealots. He did not see anything wrong with having the sharia court up to the highest level of the federal judiciary with a Grand Mufti as the head of the Federal Supreme Sharia Court. He was not opposed to the plan to have parity between the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the Grand Mufti of the Supreme Sharia Court.” In fact according to Maitama Sule, Nigeria’s former Permanent Representative to the UN and a Sharia proponent, Obasanjo, Mohammed’s deputy, fully endorsed the creation of a Sharia Court of Appeal.

 

Nonetheless, it was left to General Babangiga (1985-1993) to push the Sharia agenda to a crescendo unknown in the annals of Nigerian history. Ignoring the governing organs of the Military Government as well as troubled Nigerian Christians, he organized a mission led by a non-member of the government, the Sultan of Sokoto, to formally admit Nigeria into the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) in 1986. Since it was not discussed either publicly or in the Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC), IBB’s action was condemned by millions of Nigerians, including Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe, the Chief of General Staff, who was forced to retire from the military because of his position. In a belated attempt to pacify and divert the attention of his critics, Babangida set up 20- man panel to “examine the implications of the country’s full membership of the organization (OIC).” But in order to show his utter disregard for his critics, he unilaterally made Nigeria a shareholder of the Islamic Development Bank in January 1988.

 

Ironically, several developments in the country indicate that Islamization has made its greatest progress during the presidency of Obasanjo, a self- proclaimed “born again” Christian, than at any other time in Nigeria’s history.  First, it was during his tenure – on January 27, 2000- that Alhaji Sani Ahmed, the governor of Zamfara state, signed the Zamfara State Sharia Constitution into law and turned his impoverished state into an Islamic State. Since then, thirteen other states have followed suit. They include Sokoto, Kano, Katsina, Jigawa, Yobe, Bornu, and Niger states. For Datti Ahmed, president of the National Council for Sharia Implementation, “it is a tremendous achievement that Sharia has been re-introduced…after being almost totally absent from this country for nearly 100 years, since the coming of the British to Kano in 1903.”  64 Second, the enactment of Sharia has repeatedly received the full endorsement of the Obasanjo administration. For example, despite initial vacillation on the contentious issue, the Nigerian president, in order to ingratiate himself with the Caliphate, has continuously and brazenly shattered the country’s “secular status.” Asked in a recent British Broadcasting (BBC) interview about the unwillingness of his administration to oppose the Islamic code, Obasanjo was unequivocal in his response: “I can not do that because the states have the constitutional right to make law (on it)”  65 Indeed he has not only acknowledged the constitutionality of the Islamic code, the Nigerian ruler has earned the unenviable distinction of performing the opening ceremonies of more Sharia courts and mosques than any other Head of State in Nigerian history. Third, contrary to public assurances, the implementation of the Islamic legal code has not been restricted to Moslems but also applied to Christians as well. Fourth, Sharia has incited the worst violence since the end of the Nigeria-Biafra War and led to the killing of over 10,000 people under the Obasanjo administration. “ In Kaduna , 875 Christians alone were killed in the conflicts and 800 church buildings were destroyed. Twenty pastors were also killed.” 66 During the recent Miss World riots in the same city, over 200 people were massacred by Muslim fanatics. They include 78- year old Catholic priest, Rev. James Odion Iyere of Holy Cross Church. A former Nigerian Army Chaplain, he “was beaten, stabbed and burned.”  67 

 

Unfortunately, despite public opposition to Sharia and the gradual Islamization of the country, Nigeria Christians- clergy and laity- are unprepared for the Muslim challenge. They have shown the same disunity, weakness, and an uncanny misperception of Islam not unlike that of their Egyptian and North African co-religionists prior to the Arab conquest. They do not seem to have learned from history. In fact it is unlikely that the Islamic project would have made any progress without the enabling legal expertise and political support of the Southerners. For example, the Sharia “egg was hatched when Obasanjo was Head of State (1976-1979): Rotimi Williams headed the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC), which had as its leaders eminent lawyers like Professor Ben Nwabueze, Richard Akinjide and Bola Ige. Other prominent southern politicians, who were also members of the CDC, were either compromised or intimidated by the Islamic zealots. Only the alliance formed between members from the Middle Belt and the South South “put a check on the planned Islamization of Nigeria after the death of General Murtala.”         

 

ISLAM IN ALAIGBO

 

There was a time when Igboland- and indeed the former Eastern Nigeria also known as Biafra- was seen as a region uncontaminated by Islam. Ojukwu expressed this unique position of Igboland as a cordon sanitaire against the Islamic threat in the Ahiara Declaration. “The Biafran struggle,” he proclaimed, “is, on a similar plane, a resistance to the Arab expansionism, which has menaced and ravaged the African continent for twelve centuries.” Describing Biafra as “a non-Muslim island in a raging Islamic sea,”  68 he revealed the secret plot of northern Nigerian Moslems: “Throughout the ill-fated Nigerian experiment,” he said, “the Muslims hoped to infiltrate Biafra by peaceful means and quiet propaganda, but failed. Then the late Ahmadu Bello, the Sarduana of Sokoto tried, by political and economic blackmail and terrorism, to convert Biafrans settled in Northern Nigeria to Islam. His hope was that these Biafrans of dispersion would then carry Islam to Biafra, and by so doing give the religion political control of the area.”  69

 

Unfortunately, Ojukwu’s prediction, to a certain extent, has been realized. AlaIgbo is no longer untainted by Islam. Otherwise, how could one explain the exponential growth of Islam since the end of the Nigeria-Biafra War: the increased number of mosques and Islamic educational institutions, the growing numbers of well-educated Igbo Muslim leaders, the obvious affluence and influence of Igbo Muslim converts, and the blatant intensification of the process of Islamization and Arabization of Igboland.

 

In fact, unknown to the Ikemba and most Igbo, Islam had already made a troubling inroad into a remote part of the nation. In an important and prescient article entitled “A Moslem Igbo Village,” Prof. Simon Ottenberg wrote: “When I first carried out field research in Afikpo village group in Igbo country in 1951-1953, Anohia village seemed much like any other village there, well within the usual range of social and cultural variation. When I returned in 1959-60 the major portion of Anohia had become Islamic, a very unusual event among the Igbo.”  70 He identifies two factors responsible for this unusual phenomenon as well as their its consequences. According to him, the first was Anohia’s openness to change, which influenced its willingness to welcome both Christian missionaries and the British colonial authorities.  The second was the conversion to Islam of native son: “In 1957 a son of Anohia, Okpani Egwani, who had been abroad for many years, suddenly returned. No one had heard from him for a long time. It is said that he was thought dead and that burial services had been performed for him. He returned a Moslem, with a small following of Moslem strangers from the north, in a number of automobiles. He had changed his name to Alhaji Ibrahim. 71 Born in 1929 in the Ezi Ewa compound of Anohia, Egwani studied at the Afikpo Primary School, worked in Calabar and on the island of  Fernando Po (now Malabor), where learned some Spanish, and joined the Nigerian army in 1944.  “After his discharge he stayed at Lagos where he claims to have had a dream about God which made him to travel far, to Egypt, in West Africa, and to Gabon and the Congo… On his voyages he joined the Moslem sect of Tijaniyya, following the spiritual leadership of Ibrahim Nyas of Kaolak, near Darkar…He joined up after having a dream about this man, whom he then visited, and who converted him.  72

 

Egwani’s return to Afikpo was a disaster for his people. While on the one hand, he was successful in converting  “most of those who belonged to the related group of patrilineages of which he was a member, wives who had married into these groupings, and a few other Anohia persons” (Descent and kin ties played a key role in conversion.), on the other hand, he was unable to recruit most of Afikpo to the new religion. In fact the presence of Islam had three negative effects on the society. First, it led to the destruction and subversion of indigenous life and culture. For example, “On Sunday, October 28, 1958, in the presence of the assistant officer and a number of police, Northerners who were followers the Alhaji destroyed the shrines by taking to the secret society bush and burning them. The Anohia converts had not wished to do so themselves. The shrine pots and other items were taken from their rock resting places, their sheds, their ancestral houses, or wherever they were, and every shrine in the first ward of Anohia was burned. All but a part of the secret society bush was cut down and cleared; its shrine was also burned. The shrine in front of the men’s rest house of the main ward was also destroyed, as well as the secret masks and other paraphernalia stored inside of the house.”  73  Second, it engendered rancor, division and increased tension among the people. Disputes arose over the use of community property and the maintenance of traditional norms : the market, rest house, secret society bush, fishing pond, and the celebration of festivals and the non observance of taboos.  “There followed, in 1957 and 1958, a series of court cases, largely instituted by the non-Moslem elders of Afikpo and non-converts from Anohia, to prevent the burning of the shrines and other contemplated changes in the village.”  74  Third, it introduced an Arab/ Islamic culture that is diametrically opposed to basic Igbo concepts of democracy, liberty, freedom, republicanism, and religious and cultural tolerance. At the suggestion of Egwani, their leader, the Muslim section of Anohia “ changed its name to Medina Village.”  75 The traditional men’s rest house became a mosque. “ Among the Anohia Moslems the wearing of a cap and a long gown- often white- and the use of prayer beads, all became standard, as did the daily round of prayers. Persons no longer stood up when urinating, women no longer wore the traditional belt underneath their cloth or clothing. Men bowed and then touched their right hand to their chest in greeting. Palm wine and other strong drink, such as native gin, was forbidden…”  76 At one feast, ending Ramadan, the Afikpo Muslim women sang:

 

“Islam girls have won from the rest in singing

Michael get up. The day has broken, the cock has crowed.

Dinah Ugo, it will be good for you. A stick in your hand (something nice in your              

hand). She who has money will not become a prostitute…

I go out to a big town, a very nice town. She who is annoyed will not come 

among us…

You should try to change up your manner, the Moslem people are coming…”  77  

 

Afikpo people saw Islam as a threat and fought back to contain it culturally, religiously, politically, and legally. At Anohia “ a mat fence was eventually erected to separate the two parts of the village from each other…The heart of the secret society shrine was later recovered by its priest and reestablished in the traditional section of the village…” Islamic converts were barred from active participation in society, especially because of their total disregard for traditional norms. Ostracism was a potent weapon of the non- Muslims. And the fate of one Chief Iwu Egwu, a prominent leader  from Ngodo village, testifies to the power of Igbo traditional society as the defender of Igbo culture and tradition. After his conversion to Islam, “ he was then fined by the senior Afikpo age grades, and was more or less ostracized by other leaders, although he was an influential man and was associated with the progressive and schooled persons in the village- groups. After some time he withdrew from Islam and paid his five pound fine, but he never regained the stature in Afikpo he had held prior to his conversion, and was much ridiculed for his action.”   78  Satirical village okumkpa plays also portrayed Chief Egwu’s conversion to Islam as being motivated by monetary and selfish interests. Afikpo children were taught make fun of Muslims by shouting at them and calling them “Mallam, Mallam.”  79 No doubt the most important response of Afikpo to the Muslim threat was that of the ekpe uke esa, the major and most senior Afikpo age group: At the end of 1959, it called a meeting of the elders of five village groups to coordinate collective security measures against the Islamic menace, and to raise money to take the issue to court as well as to petition the Eastern Nigerian government based in Enugu. “ The calling together of the five village-groups is rare; it is normally carried out only when there is serious trouble between two of them or internally within a village group- in either case when the matter remains unresolved. The five groups act as conciliators, but without final authority. In the present case their aim was clearly to control and contain Moslem authority. They did not ask the Moslems to come and to present their side of the matter.”  80 Throughout this struggle, it is instructive that the British colonial government was pro- Islamic, while the Native Authority supported Afikpo traditionalists.  81

                     

In terms of propagating the Islamic faith in Igboland, perhaps one town and two institutions have played the most significant roles: With 14 mosques, Nsukka is, undoubtedly the Islamic capital of AlaIgbo 82  And no other educational institution is as important to Muslims as the one in Afikpo, Ebonyi State. Originally known as Jama-al-Nazral School and based in Enugu, it was moved to Ntezi, a remote but beautiful area outside Afikpo, where it has existed for 9 years.  83  ( No connection has been established between this institution and the remnants of the Anohia Islamic community). Educating 500 students selected from only the Igbo-speaking states, the al Nazral School also awards scholarships to all its students, from kindergarten to high school, and offers classes in secular subjects as well as in Arabic and Islamic Studies.  84 The female students, who are always “covered up” in the traditional Islamic style, are separated from the males.  85 The boys also wear traditional Hausa/ Arabic clothing. The mysterious institution has no sign in front of the property to indicate its name, affiliation or mission.

 

Allegedly funded by Saudi Arabia, the sponsor of the fanatical and intolerant brand of Islam known as Wahhabism, the favorite sect of the September 11 hijackers, the Islamic institution is virtually made up of foreign faculty: Islamic teachers from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and India, make up the overwhelming majority of the teachers;   86  they were recruited from Kaduna, the home of the “Kaduna Mafia.” The Saudis spend billions of dollars yearly to promote Islam worldwide while placing a total ban on other religions in their country. The al Nazral School is headed by one Alhaji Haruna Ajali from Afikpo. He could not be contacted during the research since he had gone on pilgrimage to Mecca. Saudi Arabia.

 

Another Islamic educational institution in AlaIgbo is the Al-Haudaa Muslim School.  87 Established in 1990 by Igbo Moslems in Enugu, and approved by the former Anambra State Government, it has a student population of about 150 students, who range in age from 3 to 12 years. Like al Nazral, Al Hudaa awards scholarships to all its students, from kindergarten to elementary. An important difference between the two, however, is the religious affiliation of the faculty. About 90% of the teachers at the Islamic School in Enugu are Christian. And while they are normally allowed to practice their faith, these Christian teachers are daily confronted by an unusual but traditional tool of Moslem proselytism: They are paid a higher salary than public school teachers in an overt and non subtle attempt to entice them to the Islamic religion.  88 The school authorities were, understandably, unwilling to give the source of the school’s financial support; One of them could only acknowledge that it is funded by the “Moslem authorities.” The Chief Imam of Al Hudaa is Igbo;  He was also on pilgrimage to Mecca during this research. His deputy is Yoruba. One of the  Igbo Imams, Alhaji Okoro,  89 became a Moslem 20 years ago.

 

Two of the most prominent Igbo Moslems are Alhaji Abdulaziz Ude and Alhaji Yahaya Ndu. Ndu, the  Presidential candidate of the African Renaissance Party (ARP), is from Ezeagu LGA in Enugu State. Another, Alhaji Isah Okonkwo,  90 is not well- known. An indigene of Akpugo in Nkanu LGA, Enugu State, he was lured into Islam as a member of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). He rose quickly, becoming the president of the Moslem Corpers Association in Kaduna State and the Moslem Corpers Association of Nigeria. Okonkwo was made the Chief Imam, University of Ibadan in the 1980’s. And there is Muhammed Okorie from Awgwu in Enugu State, who also became President of the Moslem Corpers Association of Nigeria. Sheik Adamu Abdullahi Idoko, from Nsukka, is the Chief Imam of the mosque at UNN. He was also on pilgrimage to Mecca during this research. Nsukka is the key base of Islamic expansionism in Igboland.  91 Alhaji Dauda Onyeagocha is the Chief Imam of the controversial Owerri main mosque, which is situated near the Government House. The resident Imam is Aminu Igwegbe; both are from Imo State. It is said that Senator Arthur Nzeribe is one benefactors of state’s Islamic community. He is alleged to have donated about N5 million toward the construction of the controversial mosque.  92

 

Another Igbo Muslim, Alhaji Obi Ike,  93  embraced the Islamic religion in order to “play them 419.” A former practicing Catholic, he became a Moslem and went on pilgrimage to Mecca in 1977, because he wanted to use his new religion to break into the Nigerian power structure, which is historically dominated by Moslems. Married to a woman from the Caliphate, he gained prominence in the Shagari administration, especially during the Sharia debate in the 1980’s. His marriage opened doors for him: He was awarded several contracts, which furnished him with resources to build and own hotels across the country.  94

 

Non-Igbo Moslems have also lived and prospered in various parts of AlaIgbo. The Hausas of Rivers State are, undoubtedly, the most significant. Claiming to be one million strong, they have a myth of origin that  traces their ancestral home to Katsina and Jigawa states; they also claim to have lived in Rivers State for over a century.  95  According to their tradition, “about one hundred and eighty years ago, Haliru Dikko, a bold hunter and adventurer, left Katsina, capital of present Katsina State, on a quest for elephant tusks. He also had a group of sturdy hunters who escorted him through a vast swathe of country, and finally they settled at Elele, what seems to be the most ancient of the Hausa communities in Rivers State.”  96   Another group of Hausas, from Dutse in Jigawa State, came to the state as traders and Islamic missionaries. They, too, have thrived and prospered in the area.

 

There are about 18 to 20 mosques in Port Harcourt, each attracting about 1,000 faithful each Friday.  97  They are situated in densely populated Moslem communities along Bende, Niger and Victoria Streets. The others are on Aggrey Road, Mile 1, Mile 2 up to Mile 5. These communities were led by titled men among whom were the Galadima, Danmasani, Turaki, Sarkin Yarki, Garkuwa and Wambai. The overall leader is the Sarkin Hausawa.

 

Members of the Hausa community see Rivers State as their true home. Alhaji Isa Madaki, the present Sarkin Hausawa (Leader of the Hausas), is proud of his heritage: “ I was born here, and all my brothers and sisters were born here too. My mother is alive here in Port Harcourt.” According to him, “Peace is what keeps us here, and all Hausas her share the same feeling in this regard. There is one hundred percent peace here in Rivers State.”  98

 

With strong a strong economic presence in the state, the Moslems of Rivers State have solidified their presence through “a high level of marriage and interaction between them and the “Kalabari, Ikwerre, Ogoni or Igbo neighbors.”  99       

 

ISLAMIC STRATEGY IN IGBOLAND

 

That the overall ambition of northern Nigerian Muslim leaders is the total Islamization and Arabization of the country, including AlaIgbo, is beyond doubt. They have, over the decades, expressed their intentions- both publicly and privately. Bello’s lifelong ambition to dip the Koran in the sea is well known. His acolytes have carried on his mission- with a great deal of success. And recent pro- Sharia statements by Shagari, Buhari, Atiktu, and the majority of the northern Islamic religious and political elite paint a similar picture. On their own part, Igbo Muslim leaders have opined that the Islamization of  AlaIgbo is their primary objective.  100

 

In an attempt to Islamize Igboland, the Moslems have adopted a variety of approaches: (1) “Pauperization before Proselytization”: Adopted during the Nigeria-Biafra War, this policy included the post-war attempt by the Muslim-controlled Nigerian government to restrict Ndigbo only to Igbo- speaking areas of Nigeria in order to undermine and blunt their fabled business acumen;  101 the takeover and destruction of mission schools, the engine of Igbo socio-economic, political and religious advancement; the abandoned property injustice and the N20 charade; exclusion from the commanding heights of the military, economy, and politics; the refusal to establish industries and to repair basic infrastructures- roads, water and electricity - in Igboland; and the promotion of joblessness, crime and general insecurity in the area. The intention is to use economic pressure to make the impoverished Igbo susceptible to conversion to Islam. (2) Undermine Christianity and Promote Islam: This is to be achieved by making it the religion of success and upward mobility- by giving preference to Muslim converts in promotions in the military, civil service, contracts, and political appointments. The psychological effect has been devastating: Many Igbo businessmen now believe that unless the name of a Hausa-Fulani is printed on their companies’ letter heads, it would be impossible to win contracts in both the public and private sectors.  (3) Send female Igbo NYSC members to the predominantly Muslim parts of Nigeria and entice them with money, jobs, and cars in order to get them married as second or third Muslim wives.  102  Many female Igbo youth “corpers” were known to lobby to be sent to that region of the country.  103  Moreover, many highly educated Igbo women- doctors, lawyers etc. are today second or third wives of Muslim tycoons  (4) Sharia- Use it to destroy Igbo businesses and churches in the north while, at the same time, gaining more Moslem converts, building more mosques, and controlling the oil business in the East. (5) Divide et impera- Use oil money to buy and keep the allegiance of selfish Igbo, who hate and thwart their peoples’ unity and progress. Use them to infiltrate the Igbo community in order to undermine unity.

 

ASPECTS OF ISLAMIC WELTANSCHAUUNG (Worldview)

 

It will be impossible for Ndigbo to appreciate what the Islamic presence holds in store for them without understanding aspects of the Muslim worldview, which include:

 

(1)  A World Divided: Islam divides the world into two: (a) The first world is the dar al- Islam- the Abode of Peace. In it lives the Umma or Community of Believers who own the lands of the dar al-Islam, which is governed by Sharia, the Islamic code. The imposition of sharia in any particular state or region implies the Islamic conquest and control of that area. (b)The second world is the dar al- harb or the Abode of War. Inhabited by non-Moslems (harbis), it is destined to come under Islamic rule by war (harb), or by conversion. According to Ibn Taimiya, a 14th century Moslem jurisconsult,   106  the property of non- Moslems must revert legitimately to Muslims, “the sole followers of the true religion.”

(2)  JIHAD: Christian lands conquered by Muslims constitute a waqf or fayland in Islamic law. Managed collectively by the caliph, it is seen as booty granted by Allah to the Islamic community. In fact the whole world is a waqf promised by Allah to Muslims but temporarily and illegally occupied by non-Muslims until they are strong enough to reclaim it. Jihad is the means by which property “illegally” usurped by non- Muslims are restored to Muslims. Thus the concept of minority rights does not exist in Islamic thinking since all non-Muslims are expected to become Muslims. “Islam never allows a Muslim to come under the authority of a non-Muslim in any circumstance at all.”  104 Even all newly born babies are considered as Muslims. Jihad is also a permanent and total war and excludes any idea of peace; it authorizes temporary truces only to facilitate victory. Islamic theologians regard jihad as one of the pillars of the faith; it is incumbent on all Moslems to contribute to it. Its overall strategy is to destabilize the frontiers of the Abode of War with irregular forces by burning, hostage taking, and massacres, in order to drive away the indigenous population and to facilitate a complete takeover of their lands. Jihad can also be peaceful- the internal and spiritual struggle of a Moslem against evil, or a modus operandi whereby a non-Moslem is converted to Islam by proselytism and propaganda. But the experience of most non-Muslims in Islamic countries is that of a violent religion in which “every act of war in the dar al-harb is legal and immune from censure.”

(3)  SHARIA: The Islamic code is the law that should govern the lives of the inhabitants of all the conquered lands. It can only be imposed on conquered peoples. However, there is a need to distinguish between Sharia and fiqh, which is the interpretation and application of the Islamic code by jurists who are human beings.  

(5) CONVERSION: In spite of certain doctrinal similarities, Islam, which considers itself as the “final revealed religion,” sees Christianity as a corrupt, weak and dying religion that may be tolerated for awhile, but must later be replaced by Islam. As a faith imbued with a machismo culture and a superiority complex, it believes that it is the repository of absolute truth, and that there is no possibility of salvation outside it. Conversion to Christianity from Islam is, therefore, treated harshly; the new convert is considered as the scum of the earth for reverting to the “darkness” of a regressive faith after experiencing the “light” of Islam. It leads to family rejection, lost jobs, disinheritance, divorce, imprisonment, and even execution. According to Crabb, “a faith which you are not free to leave becomes a prison, and no self respecting faith should be a prison for those within it.” Professor Abdallah An-Naim summarizes Islamic law on apostates: “According to all the established schools of Islamic jurisprudence, as accepted by the vast majority of Muslims today, an apostate must be put to death, his property confiscated, and his Muslim wife divorced from him, regardless of her wishes.”  105

(8) HUMAN RIGHTS/ WOMEN: Islam is opposed to the Western concept of human rights, which is based on individualism, rationalism and legal principles that protect citizens from the coercive powers of the state and forbids torture, cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment or punishment. And while Islamic countries are signatories to the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, they have insisted on giving its covenants and protocols their own unique interpretation, which inter alia stresses human obligations based on divine law. For Muslims, the Koran is the basis of all human rights. Consequently, a Declaration of Human Rights in Islam, which was adopted in Cairo (1990), stresses not human but divine sovereignty, not individual rights but obligations, not equality without distinction but distinction based on inequality, not separation between mosque and state but their oneness. Indeed Islam does not acknowledge the equality of the sexes, and treats women as inferior.  106  “Sharia does not conceive of women and minorities as full citizens of an Islamic state…Sharia is inconsistent with the fundamental constitutional and human rights of non-Muslim citizens of an Islamic state.”  107

(9) JAHILIYYA: Undoubtedly, the Islamic doctrine of Jahiliyya should alarm Igbo scholars and nationalists, who see no difference between Christianity and Islam and condemn both as foreign religions. Introduced after the founding Islam, Jahiliyya was a weapon used to bring linguistic and cultural unity to the disparate population of Arabia, who spoke different languages prior to the emergence of the new religion. It has also several implications for the world, especially as a very useful and effective tool in the expansion of Arabic and Islamic culture. For example, Jahiliyya was responsible for the extinction of Aramaic and Greek, the two main languages of the Christian Middle East and their replacement with Arabic. It is a-historical because it condemns the past of all new converts to Islam, strips them of their historical records, origins, identities, and cultures, 105 and rejects their past history as un-Islamic. A promoter of Arabization and Arabianization, it enables the Arabs to freeze the past of the conquered and to impose on them their own concept and control of time and space. Jahiliyya also creates the tendency among converts that in order to seem human, they must become appendages of Arab culture and heritage.  It is crucial to the faith because social conversion is extremely important in Islam. The new convert is forced to define his identity not by tribe or nation but in terms of the Ummah- the larger Islamic community with which a new and powerful solidarity has now been established. This type of solidarity, which is totally lacking in Christianity, was evident when Islamic fanatics attacked Igbo Christians after the US invaded Afghanistan. Islamic solidarity is a potent tool of Muslim mobilization. It compels the West and international organizations to seek solutions to Islamic issues and to neglect those of the Christians. Otherwise why should there be such a road map leading to the creation of a Palestinian state and not self determination for the Biafrans and southern Sudanese?       

(10) POLITICAL CONTROL: Even if they are not in direct control of power, Muslims are encouraged to takeover social institutions in their various countries, especially the legislative and judicial branches of government, in order to promote Islamization. The intention is “to gradually pervade the culture at all levels and thus make conversion more socially acceptable than it would have been had Islam remained a completely alien faith.”

(11) TAQIYYA: The Islamic (Shi’a) principle of taqiyya or “simulated submission” encourages Muslims to engage in calculated deception in order to enable them to survive a hostile environment. They should, however, strive to seize power once they become politically strong; it is not unlike the “strategy of weakness” often adopted in the western and animal worlds. A taqiyya atmosphere seems to prevail in contemporary Igboland.        

 

EPILOGUE

 

Given its historic precedents, it is crystal clear that Islam poses a clear and present danger to Igbo interests and survival, especially during the worst period of Igbo religious, cultural, political, economic, and social weakness. But the greatest danger lies in the religious and cultural spheres, where neither of the two potent social factors are capable of playing the traditional and historic role of authentically nationalist faiths for oppressed peoples: Mobilization of opposition and acting as their last line of defense.

 

But Ndigbo are not totally helpless and can reverse the Islamic desert storm that is threatening to overwhelm them. This can be done through (1) IGBO CULTURAL RENAISSANCE: The slow and palpable erosion of Igbo culture calls for an Igbo cultural renaissance- the reassertion of ancient, healthy and historically rooted mores, language, beliefs and institutions. Of all these, the perpetuation, transmission and promotion of the Igbo language is, no doubt, the most urgent task facing Ndigbo at home and abroad. This challenge can met in several ways: (a) Through the resuscitation and reformation of the Society for the Preservation of Igbo Language and Culture (SOPILAC) or the establishment of a new organization, which will facilitate the preparation and coordination of Igbo classes for Igbo children on local, regional, national and international levels. An Igbo “adult education” project should also be organized for millions of Igbo, including members of the academic and professional elite who are often incapable of writing the Igbo language, and are, invariably, more fluent and comfortable in tongues other than that of their forbears. (b) Yearly competitions based on various categories of Igbo culture and heritage- Parables, folk tales, fashion, dances, beauty contests, plays, Traditional/Christian songs, history, poetry, essays etc. should be held on Igbo Day. The winners should be given both material rewards and Igbo titles. Igbo Day should also be an occasion to honor Igbo and non-Igbo who have made great contributions toward  Igbo progress and survival (c) Institutions that maintained order and stability among the Igbo- Nze, Ọzọ, Okonkọ, Age Groups, Masquerade Groups, Womens’ Groups etc.- should be revived, reformed, rid of corrupt members and coordinated on a national level. The danger posed by the proliferation of  “chiefs” and “autonomous communities” must be addressed. (d) A single rite of passage ceremony (similar to the Jewish Bar Mitzah but based on Igbo culture) must be codified and used to initiate all Igbo children to manhood and womanhood. It will strengthen their Igbo identity and reduce cultural confusion.  (e) Surviving Traditional Igbo Religious shrines should be declared (Igbo) national reserves and protected from encroachment. The promotion of the Igbo cultural renaissance should not be restricted to the internet, conferences and learned journals. It is a movement to increase knowledge and raise consciousness that leads to action. Its success will be judged in a variety of ways: In the ability of the Igbo to distinguish between traditional Igbo clothing from that of theYoruba and Hausa/Fulani, proudly wear the former at social functions, and speak the language at Igbo public ceremonies without apologies.  (2) USE OF DOUBLE RELIGIOUS HERITAGE: Ndigbo have a double religious heritage: Traditional African Religion and Christianity. In spite of its mistakes, Christianity has been more of a blessing than a bane for the Igbo. Its schools and colleges produced not only the leaders of the independence struggle, it was instrumental in enabling the Igbo to academically surpass the other ethnic groups and emerge on top of the Nigerian social structure.  And most importantly, the role of the Christian Church during the Nigeria-Biafra War must remain indelible in the hearts and minds of true Igbo nationalists. For while most governments abandoned or halfheartedly gave us aid, while the Islamic and Arab world was participating in the Biafran holocaust, it was the Christian religion, especially the Catholic Church, that exposed the genocidal intentions of the Gowon regime and stood with the Igbo throughout the crisis.  But for their unflinching support, we could have been wiped out as a people.  And as a result of their devotion and commitment, Obasanjo, the commander of Nigeria’s third marine commando had them arrested, put in trucks and transported to Port Harcourt, where they were dumped on a field to roast in the hot scorching sun and then deported. These brave missionaries, some of whom had spent over fifty years in Igboland, were permanently banned from entering Nigeria.

 

Thus the challenge of our double heritage is too important to be left only in the hands of Igbo clergymen. For it is also the responsibility of the Igbo academic elite to facilitate our collective defense, progress and survival through research that promotes inculturation - the bringing of the power of the gospel into the very heart of Igbo culture by knowing it and its essential components, by learning its significant expressions, and by respecting its values and riches. Therefore, the call for a return to a pristine  Igbo traditional and primordial religious heritage is naïve and untenable. For while in the past TIR or “Ọdịnanị” could rally the Igbo to confront a common threat, it can not, for obvious reasons, be employed today for the mobilization of the “Christian” Igbo people. And since it is difficult to create strong and durable social institutions without the aid of a powerful religion and culture, there is a need for the creation of a potent spiritual and ideological force that could act as a last line of defense of Igbo interests, especially now that virtually all other Igbo social and political institutions have been either been corrupted or compromised or both. Judaism played a similar role for the Jews, Catholicism for the Spaniards and Poles, and Islam, for most Muslim countries. In fact the overwhelming political advantage historically held by northern Nigerian Muslims over the rest of Nigeria, is traceable to their Islamic faith. It gives them the human and material resources – internal and external - to set the political agenda (eg. Sharia), enforce sanctions (fatwa), and rule or determine who will run the country. Igbo Christianity is yet unable to play a similar role, because it is not yet Igbo culture. That is why the region is full of traitors and fifth columnists. A more nationalist Igbo religion encourages discourages denominationalism; it encourages cooperation and unity between Catholics and Protestants, especially in the face of internal and external threats. It is not merely a matter of religious “fanaticism” but of survival. For “a religion that took no account of a people’s way of life, a religion that did not recognize spots of beauty and truth in their way of life was useless. It would not satisfy. It would not be a living experience, a source of life and vitality. It would only maim the soul.”  108

(4)  RESEARCH ON IGBO CULTURAL STRENGTH: That the contemporary Igbo is culturally weaker than his ancestors is beyond doubt. The strength of latter in dealing with internal and foreign threats is indicative of their power. It made it impossible for an autocratic king or queen to rule over Igboland; it gave birth to the incredible resilience and defensive ingenuity of the Ekumeku movement and to the Ahịara resistance. It earned the Igbo the reputation of being with the Ashanti one of two ethnic groups to have engaged in the longest resistance to British rule in Africa. An aspect of the ability of the Igbo to preserve their freedom may also have been the product of  Ndụ bụ Gịnị?, the ancient Igbo philosophy and practice of opposition to oppression and injustice. Like the Japanese kamikaze pilots and suicide bombers, Ndụ bụ Gịnị?  adherents would give their lives in order to save the community from imminent danger. For the Igbo, a people who used to place such a high premium on human life, the development of this level of nationalism proves that Ndigbo used to love freedom even more than life. Their motto must have been similar to that of the freedom- loving Scots: “ You may take our lives, but you will never take our freedom. “  With so much sacrifice in imprisonment, beatings, and even death, MASSOB is the only current group that fits into this ancient practice of Igbo patriotism. The Igbo academic and cultural elite, softened by decades of acculturation, and unable to put together coherent and durable social and political institutions to protect their peoples’ welfare, have sold out. They seem so incapable of preserving the freedoms and liberties they inherited from their ancestors. They seem resigned to pass unto their children a legacy of slavery, submission and bondage. More research needs to be done as to why our parents and grandparents who were “not educated” were politically better organized, more intolerant of injustice, and more culturally resilient than their “highly educated” progeny.  They also built more durable institutions – schools, colleges, hospitals, village/town halls etc.- than their “highly-educated” children and grand children.  (4) RECONQUISTA:  The increasing numbers of Igbo Muslims is a prelude to Islamic takeover of the area. There is, therefore, an urgent need to reconvert Igbo Muslims to Christianity through the social and economic pressures of the Igbo community system. Most of these converts, who are naïve about the Islamic faith, should be made to realize that a primary objective of their new faith is the destruction of Igbo culture and heritage. Those who refuse to return to their former faith should be declared as traitors, segregated and ostracized. This was how the Afikpo people contained and dealt with Islam in their midst. It is also how Muslims treat the Igbo Christians in the Sabongaris of the north. Muslims should be allowed to proselytize in Igboland only after Christian missionaries are welcome within the walls of the Muslim cities of northern Nigeria. (5) ORGANIZE AT HOME AND ABROAD: The premier index of a truly intelligent people is organization. If Ndigbo are as intelligent as we claim, how is it that we are being ruled by less intelligent people? How is it that in terms of protecting group political interests, a Fulani cattle boy is more knowledgeable, conscious and activist than an Igbo Ph.D.? And when will the 50% of Ndigbo who live outside AlaIgbo, especially in the US, begin to realize that the challenge of reviving and restoring AlaIgbo is in their hands. Do they not know that the political stars are now aligned in our favor. That the Islamic threat is no longer an Igbo problem; it is now Western and global. Our basic values- democracy, republicanism, love of freedom and liberty, diligence and resilience- should make us “natural” allies of America. With our numbers and professional successes in Europe and America, Igbo self determination can be achieved either in a Biafran state or in a political arrangement that will progressively detach us from the suffocating vise of that “blind giant.” Unfortunately, Ndigbo, unlike other relatively large national groups in the US, have been inept in influencing American policy to the benefit their people in Nigeria. Unlike the Hausa and Yoruba, they can not boast of any real access either to Congress or the White House. There is an urgent need for Ndigbo to have permanent friends in Congress.

  

Finally, it is time for Ndigbo in America to realize that political progress, social stability as well as economic and technological advancement will forever elude our people under the present Nigerian political status quo. That they should also let the Muslims know in both words and deed that Sharia is incompatible with one Nigeria. That Ndigbo are prepared to resort to civil disobedience to stop their oil money from being used to build mosques, Sharia courts, and to pay the salaries of the Sharia police (hizba)  that enforce the Islamic code as well as participate in the ethnic cleansing of as their people in the north. An Igbo nationalist hit the nail on the head: “The only source or that new hope is Ndigbo abroad. They are financially and politically independent. Their next meal is not dependent on picking through the trash in Nzeribe’s backyard, which he collected from OO’s droppings. Igbo Abroad has an obligation not to sit on the fence at this critical hour. We can not expect the next generation to work without the help of this generation.”  109

 

ENDNOTES:

 

1. Memo from Professor Adiele Afigbo, March 1, 12003.  

2. Massacre of Ndi-Igbo in 1966, Report of the Onyiuke Tribunal of Inquiry, Ikeja, Lagos: Tollbrook Ltd., no date.

3. The Violation of Human and Civil Rights of  Ndigbo in the Nigerian Polity, 1966-1999, A Call for Reparation and Restitution.   

4. W.B. Yeats, Cited in Chinua Achebe, Things Fall Apart, New York: Anchor Books, 1994, no page number.

5. Rev. Fr. Hassan Kukah, Religious Politics and Power in Northern Nigeria, Ibadan: Spectrum Books, 1994.

6. Soyinka cited in Akintunde Akinade, Christian-Muslim Dialogue in Yorubaland: An Ecumenical Critique, Ph.d. Dissertation, Union Theological Seminary, New York, 1996.

7. Rev. Fr. C. O. Ubaka, “Sharia in Nigeria: Its Implications for Non-Christians, Enugu: 2001

8. Joseph Kenny, OP, “Islam and Church Witness in the 21st Century,” Given at CAPA (Conference of Anglican Province of Africa) New Bishops’ Training Course, Ibadan, June 5, 1999 

9. Akinade, op.cit.

10. Archbishop John Onaiyekan, “Muslims and Christians in Nigeria- The Imperatives of Dialogue,” Talk given to SEDOS, October 17, 2001. 

11. Harold J. Laski, The American Democracy, New York: The Viking Press, 1948, p.313.

12 Alan F. Geyer, Piety and Politics, Richmond, VA: John Knox Press, 1963, p.19.

13. ibid.

14. ibid.

15. Charles Kimball, When Religion Becomes Evil, San Francisco: Harper Collins, 2002, p.1

16. Kimball, op. cit.

17. Richard John Neuhaus, The Naked Public Square, Religion and Democracy in America, Grand rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., p.ix

18. Gilles Keppel, The Revenge of God: the Resurgence of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism in the modern World, University Park, Pa: Pa State University Press, 1994, p.1

19. ibid. p.11

20. Philip Jenkins, “Globalization and the Transformation of Christianity,” The Atlantic Journal, Vol. 3, No. 1, January 2002.

21. ibid.

22 ibid.

23. ibid.

24. ibid.

25.  Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilization and the Remaking of World Order, New York: 4Touchstone, 1997, p.256.

26. Ted Koppel, Knightline, December 11, 1997.

27. Bat Ye’or, The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam: From Jihad to Dhimmitude, Madison: Farleigh Dickinson University Press, 1996, p.35

28. ibid.

29.  “ Face to Face: A Conversation with Walid Phares,” South Florida Sun-Sentinel, November 4, 2001, p.5F

30. Ye’or, op.cit. p.38

31. W. Wilson Cash, Christendom and Islam, New York: Harper and Brothers, 1937, p.38

32. Colin Chapman, Islam and the West, Conflict, Co-existence or Conversion, Carlisle, Cumbria: Paternoster Press, 1998, p.8

33. ibid.

34. Cash, op. cit., p.34.

35. Ye’or, op.cit. p.37

36. T.W. Arnold, The Preaching of Islam, A History of the Propagation of the Muslim Faith, Sheik Muhammad Asraf, Lahore, 1896 (Reprinted 1979), p.6 

37. Philip Hitti, Islam and the West, Princeton: Van Nostrand, 1962, p.27

38. Cash, op.cit. p.35

39. ibid. p.36

40. ibid.

41. Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, New York: Bonanza Books, 1985, pp.35-

42. Donner, Early Islamic Conquests, in Ye’or, op.cit. p.44

43. ibid.

44. ibid.

45. ibid. p.39

46. “The Christian Exodus From the Middle East,” The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, December 19, 2001, p.1

47. ibid.

48. ibid. p.4

49. Samaar and Sukkary, “The Copts of Egypt and Muslims of Egypt,” in Joseph and Pillsbury (eds), Muslim-Christian Conflicts: Economic, Political, and Social Origins, Boulder: Westview Press, 1978, p.134 

50. ibid.

51. ibid. p.137

52. Ye’or, op.cit. p.271

53. Raymond Maloney, S.J., “Egypt, Ethiopia: Africa’s Senior Churches in Dialogue with Rome,” AFER, Vol. 30, no. 2, april 1988, p.91

54. Chancellor Williams, The Destruction of Black Civilization, Chicago: Third World Press, p.148

55. ibid p.139

56. ibid. p.144

57. ibid. p.145

58. ibid. p.152

59. Vanguard, January 18, 2002

60. Vanguard, May 1, 2002

61. Vanguard, “Sharia in Lagos,” Weekly Trust, January 18, 2003

62. Obed Minchakpu, “Christians and Islamic Law in Nigeria,” Worthy News, September 4, 2002.

63. Omo Omoruyi, Nigeriaworld, March 7, “An Appeal to President Olusegun Obasanjo: Nigeria: Neither an Islamic nor a Christian Country,” March 7, 2001.

64. Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, “Are Muslims Better Off?,” Weekly Trust, January 18, 2003.

65. Francis Obinor, “Govt. can’t move against Sharia, says Obasanjo,” The Guardian, Tuesday, February 18, 2003.

66. Minchakpu, op.cit.

67. “Priest attacked during Nigeria’s Miss World riots dead,” ABC Newsonline, December 1, 2002.

68 Emeka Ojukwu, The Ahiara Declaration, Principles of the Biafran Revolution, June, 1969.

69. ibid

70. Simon Ottenberg, “ An Moslem Igbo Village, “ Cahiers D’Etudes Africaines, No. 42, Volume 11, 1971, p.231.

71. ibid. p.238

72. ibid. p.239

73. ibid. p.242

74. ibid. p.241

75. ibid. p.242

76. ibid. p.248

77. ibid. p.253

78. ibid. p.241

79. ibid. p.247

80. ibid. p.244

81. ibid. p.245

82. Interview, April 5, 2003.

83. Interview at Afikpo, March 16, 2003

84. ibid.

85. ibid

86. ibid.

87. ibid

88. This name was used to protect source’s identity. 

89. Interview in Enugu, March 17, 2003

90. ibid.

91. ibid.

92. Name used to protect source’s identity.

93. Interview at Afikpo, op.cit.

94. TadaferuaUjorha, “The Hausa of Port Harcourt,” The Daily Trust, January 24, 2002.

95. ibid.

96. ibid.

97. ibid.

98. Interview, New York, April 4, 2002

99. Interview, University of Ife, May 1988 

100. Interview, Enugu, March 16, 2003

101. ibid.

102. Yeo’r, op.cit. p.44

103. Ann E. Mayer, Islam and Human Rights: Tradition and Politics, London: Pinter, p.1995, p.117.

104. Abdullah A. An-Na’im, Mahmud Taha and the Crisis of Islamic Law Reform: Implications for Inter-religious Relations, Journal of Ecumenical Studies, Vol. 25:1, 1988, p.3

105. Mina Nevisa, Don’t Keep Me Silent!, One Woman’s Escape from the Chains of Islam, Silver Spring, MD: Mina Nevisa, 1999, p.18.

106. op.cit. p.126

107. Chukwudi O. Maduno, Ohacracy, The Undercurrent of Africa-Centered Nationalism, Awka: Ekumeku Communication Systems, 1995, p.93.

108. Ngugi, The River Between, Cited in Columba Nnorom, America Churches and Southern Africa, Rhetoric and Reality, Lanham: University Press of America, 1997.

109. Ugo Anakwenze, Igbo Forum, February 1, 2003.

 

 

Islam in Igboland: Lessons in History